The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941-1960

Varley Gallery 
October 23, 2009 – February 28, 2010  
Varley Art Gallery, Unionville, ON

March 19 to May 30, 2010   
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Video – Roald Nasgaard discusses \”The Automatiste Revolution\”

Guest-Curated by Roald Nasgaard

Unionville, Ontario – The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941-1960, a landmark exhibition, opens at the Varley Art Gallery on October 21, 2009 and runs until February 28, 2010. It will then travel to the pre-eminent gallery for post-war art in America, the Albright Knox Gallery, in Buffalo, New York. Guest-curated by Roald Nasgaard, this exhibit is the most extensive of this group of artists which included Jean-Paul Riopelle. “They were the first Canadian artists to produce work that was contemporary with New York and Paris”, says John Ryerson, Director of the Varley Gallery. ” Outside of Quebec, their recognition is regrettably disproportionate to their importance to Canada, the USA and France.”  The Albright-Knox tour is the first time the Automatistes as a group will be presented in the United States. Louis Grachos, Director at the Knox-Albright says, “The gallery is looking forward to hosting this exhibition of avant-garde art by members of the Canadian Automatistes group of the 1940s and 50s. By exhibiting these works, our renowned collection of American abstract expressionist art will be seen in a broader, international context that will complement these remarkable works by Canadian artists from the same time period.”

The artists came together around Paul-Emile Borduas, a Canadian painter. He was also an activist for the separation of church and state, especially for art, in Quebec. In 1948, the artists signed a manifesto called Refus global which became one of the pillars of the Quiet Revolution, a period of intense change in Quebec. The signatories were: Paul-Emile Borduas, Magdeleine Arbour, Marcel Barbeau, Bruno Cormier, Claude Gavreau, Muriel Guilbault, Marcelle Ferron, Fernand Leduc, Thérèse Leduc, Francoise Sullivan, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Maurice Perron, Louis Renaud, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Françoise Riopelle. The group disbanded with the death of Borduas in 1960. However, the Automatistes, which included painters, poets, a playright, a TV producer and sculptors, continue to influence Quebec society and culture. Legendary dancer, choreographer and artist, Francoise Sullivan O.C. was recently at the Varley Gallery to discuss introducing her dance works to audiences here as one of the initiatives to draw on the breadth of cross-disciplinary work generated by the Automatistes.

The accompanying publication to the exhibition co-authored by Roald Nasgaard and Automatiste historian and author, Ray Ellenwood will include 60 colour plates from the exhibition. The book will be published by Douglas & McIntyre, who recently published Roald Nasgaard’s “Abstract Painting in Canada”. The exhibition and publication are supported by the Varley-McKay Art Foundation, and by private donors.

The Varley Gallery is located in historic Unionville which is part of Markham, Ontario, a twenty minute drive northeast of Toronto. It is open Tuesdays-Saturdays, from 10am-4pm and Sundays, from 12 noon-4pm. For related programming, see

Markham, a municipality of more than 285,000 residents centrally located in the Greater Toronto area, is Canada’s most diverse community and home to many of Canada’s leading life science and technology businesses. It is renowned for a rich heritage, vibrant neighbourhoods, and leadership on the environment and urban design.

Media advisory: For more information and for exhibit photo enquiries, please contact John Ryerson,, 905-477-9511, ext. 233.  If you wish to receive an invitation to the Varley Gallery’s exhibit opening or press preview, please contact

Media enquiries: Judy Hammond, CLEAR Communications,, 416-920-5817.